How the Cold War Started

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The USA and the USSR were allies during World War Two, however they were not natural allies. The seeds of hostility between the USA and the USSR began after World War Two, the period that followed is known as the Cold War. The reason for it being called a ‘cold’ war is due to the fact that no physical war took place between the two countries. Many factors fuelled the tension between the USA and USSR, all of which can divide into three categories: the arms race, Eastern Europe and ideologies.

An arms race is a competition between nations for superiority in the development and accumulation of weapons. Historians believe that the arms race was the most prominent factor causing tensions. The significant turning point of the USA and USSR’s relationship, and trigger event to the arms race, was the bombing of Japan. In August 1945, the USA dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed and thousands of people died. The bombs were the most powerful weapons invented. The fact that the USA had not informed their ally, the USSR, before dropping the bombs created suspicion from the USSR. Russia did not have any bombs and this meant that the USA could potentially attack the Soviet Union and they could not do a thing to prevent it. Adding to the tensions, both the USA and USSR have contradicting views on the reasons behind the bombs. In the USA’s perspective, “any weapon that would bring an end to war and save a million casualties among American boys was justified... the A-bomb would be successful” says the US secretary of state James Byrne. However, the USSR thought that “the purpose of the bombings was to intimidate other countries”, in the view of Russian historian Vadim Nekrasov. This opposing view reflects their mutual feelings for each other. The USSR felt the need two surpass the USA on arms and so in August 1949, the USSR have their own A-bomb. The increase in weapons and competition over military might was initially begun by the USA to contain communism. The USSR saw the increase in weapons and competition as a threat and felt the need to match or even surpass it. One nation felt the need that if the other were to have nuclear weapons of mass destruction, they should be able to counteract any possible action with their own stockpiles of weapons. The two countries had contrasting viewpoints and could never see eye to eye. This lack of trust and continuous suspicion created unnecessary tension and further disabled any relationships to be fixed.

In April 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was created. It was a military alliance of the US, Canada and nations of Western Europe against the threat of communist expansion. The USSR saw this as a threat and so in response, six years later, the USSR created an ‘antidote’ to this, being the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact was a mutual defence treaty between eight communist states in Europe. The USSR saw NATO as a threat as Article 5 of the charter mentioned “The parties agree to an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”. In response, the USSR’s Warsaw Pact stated “in the event of an armed attack in Europe, one or several states... render the state(s) immediate assistance by all the means it may consider necessary including the use of armed forces”. Both the nations saw these as threats as they showed that each opposing nation was ready to attack when necessary. This heightened the climate of suspicion between them. Within the cold war, things almost turned hot. In 1950, the Korean War took place. The North Koreans (backed by the Soviets) invaded South Korea (backed by the USA). This event was a war between the Capitalists and Communists but took place between two –almost- puppet nations with the USA and USSR pulling the strings in order to avoid war with each other. The Korean War as a complete breakdown in communication between the two and led to even more tension.

The...
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